Chronicle of plunder untold

- by Priyadarshi Dutta in The Pioneer

    The Jews and the Muslims clash and kill each other in West Asia. They get hurt but neither is traumatized. The Christians and Muslims fought the crusades no less ruthlessly. They maimed or bled one another and destroyed churches and mosques, and it was like battling like. Hence there was no injury but no real trauma, no ultimate surprise. Everyone spoke, as it were, the same language of combat and understood the legitimacy of one trying to dominate the other, depending on who was stronger. Not so the votary of co-existence, the Hindu.

    I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to death your right to say it. "This quote is mistakenly and commonly attributed to Voltaire. Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre, published a book titled The Friends of Voltaire in 1906. The mistakenly attributed quote was Hall's interpretation of Voltaire's attitude, especially in reaction to Helvetius (1715-1771).

Prafull Goradia in Hindu Masjids

    In an altogether different context though Erich von Daniken in preface to his earth-shaking bestseller Chariot of Gods (1968) had commented that it had taken a lot of courage to write the work and it a lot of courage as well to read it, and many with closed minds would disgustfully throw it down in heaps of books that don't call for a mention. The globetrotting Swiss archaeologist had propounded a view that earth's civilization is a continuation of civilization throughout the universe and actually established by benevolent trans-stellar aliens.

    This book is purportedly on Hindu temples that were desecrated and converted into mosques. The word "purportedly" needs qualification and I will come to that later. On desecration and conversion, has Mr Goradia told us anything we don't already know? Not just Richard Eaton's book, which is abundantly quoted, there are a host of others, including stuff emanating from the Hindutva brigade. There are several articles by Rajiv Varma floating around on the Web. Sita Ram Goel (and others) have two volumes on the stuff. As research output, these are far superior to Hindu Masjids. What then, is the Goradia value addition? Apparently, two.

    Prafull Goradia has travelled across India to discover the marks of another alien incursion - cultural aliens or aliens to culture, by no means benevolent. What out of context Goradia shares with Daniken is a lot of courage to write the book, and readers would need that as well. Piquantly titled, Hindu Masjids is photographic evidence of Muslim iconoclasm on Hindu-Jain-Buddhists temples summarily converted into mosques- ironically against the tenets of Islam. The scholarly work of Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What, Happened to Them (1990) in two volumes is till date considered a remarkable compendium parlance that Muslims destroyed around 3000 Hindu temples in India. The Hindus for their characteristic apathy to history as to geography rarely documented those destructions. Our knowledge about them was derived from Muslim chroniclers graphically recording their dubious accomplishment. In the 19th century the British introduced modern historiography in India - and people at large came to know about these destructive enterprises. Archaeologists liked Sir Alexander Cunningham, founder-Director of Archaeological Survey of India, exhumed Buddhist pilgrim sites like Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Sarnath concealed in the soil and forests since 13th century when the rapacious sword of Islam had extirpated Buddhism from India.

    Space for such historical researches got squeezed in Independent India as objectivity fell victim to religious minoritism. Nehru tried his best to forestall the restoration and dedication to the nation of the historic Somnath, saying it would hurt the sentiment of the minorities. From MN Ray to Romilla Thapar, the Leftist academic mafia attempted to justify the destruction of the temple. But whatever research the nationalist historians did, for reasons technical, was confined to library shelves and the writing desk. Since they did not visit those places personally their work was poorly substantiated with photographs. Prafull Goradia, ex-MP and former editor of BJP Today visited many Hindu Masjids throughout India accompanied by a photographer. Combined with sedulous re-search, his efforts find expression in the form of a book substantiated with over 60 plates of original colour photographs.

    It is commonly understood that Muslim marauders destroyed around 3000 shrines in India. However the distinction between a temple recycled into a mosque and a standing temple converted into a mosque strangely eluded the notice of even Cunningham, the pioneer in this field. Prafull Goradia is seemingly the first to do that, also more controversial. Goradia describes a converted mosque as, "A mosque, which is obviously still the structure of a temple and can be used by the Hindus for worship, should be returned. There are many such edifices where the sanctum sanctorum has been walled up, a mehrab constructed towards the direction of Holy Mecca and statuettes have been defaced. In some case, a small dome has been built above the mimbar or the pulpit. For Muslims to pray in such edifices is like using stolen property in full and continual public view. And that too for remembering Allah!"

    The author is irked by those who don't impeach the Muslims' right to be intolerant- Goradia points out that for Muslims praying in a converted mosque with sketchily defaced Hindu statuettes keeping a tab on their azans is incompatible with the tenets of Islam. Remember, when Turks converted Hagia Sofia Cathedral into Ayasofia mosque in Istanbul in 1453, they completely plastered off the frescoes- even though no sculpture is ever used in an Eastern Orthodox Church.

    Gordia's itinerancy includes Quawwatul Islam mosque in Mehrauli. Adhai Din Ka Jhopra (triple temples converted into a mosque by Quatabuddin Aibak in 60 hours) at Ajmer, Keshava Deva Mandir aka Krishna Janmabhoomi converted into an Idgah, Chachakpur temple or Jhanjri masjid and Atala Devi Masjid of Jaunpur, Bijamandal mosque in Vidisha, Bhojsala Masjid in Gwalior, and Adina Masjid in Pandua (West Bengal) to name a few at random. Some of the premises are under the ASI

    Apart from tales of Hindu discomfiture the author has something encouraging to relate. A few temples converted to mosques subsequently underwent what he calls shuddhi in the stones, and returned to Hindus fold. Govind Dev temple at Vrindavan was returned to Hindus by the British administration in 1870, 200 years after it was converted to a mosque by Aurangzeb. A similar story with Rohini temple at Mahavana, near Vrindavana. However, most historic is the instance of the Jain temples inside the fort of Devgiri (later Daulatabad) converted into Malik Kafur, but reconverted to a non-controversial Bharat Mata Mandir under the aegis of the Government of India, after the liberation of Hyderabad. And there is a case of spontaneous shuddhi Sultan Ghari, in the vicinity of Vasant Kunj, South Delhu wherein Hindus perform puja along side Muslims performing ibaadat. But the list of destruction and desecration of Hindu shrines in Pakistan and Bangladesh since 1947 shatter our assumption that iconoclastic exercises were a medieval era phenomenon.

    The book has collection of several self-contained articles that provide insight into solving not only the Hindu-Muslim crisis but also subcontinental and international problems faced by India.

    What was the author's possible motive in writing such a bombshell? Doesn't he subscribe to the wisdom of "let bygones be bygones", putting skeletons of the Sultanate on public display. Does he want to humiliate the Muslims of India, his fellow countrymen? Well, he says, "This book is an attempt to bridge the communication gap, to be frank and to enable a heart to heart dialogue. That is the way to bury hatred built over centuries and built friendship amongst two communities. As in marriage, so in friendship, confess, confide and concede, if justified."

    This is certainly an antidote to the propaganda machinery which propagates that Muslims have never committed any wrong; that all the wrongs of the world were committed against Muslims, which need to be redressed, even avenged. Printed on glossy paper, the price appears highly subsidised considering even the press production cost.